The "Clients vs. Firms" battle is "so 2000 and late." Embrace productive disagreement and don't be afraid to ask what the client needs and why.
Following Thursday’s thought-provoking sessions and networking opportunities at P3 - The Innovation Practice Conference, attendees were primed for another day of learning.
The closing session, “Client and Firm Communication – It’s Tricky, Tricky, Tricky,” was presented by Jae Um and Casey Flaherty from Baker McKenzie. Jae and Casey challenged attendees to think differently when it comes to client and firm conversations. Words matter, to help us make progress, but ultimately we need better skills. “Ideas are cheap. Ideas are highly, highly overrated. Execution is all that matters,” Flaherty advised.
What’s further driving a wedge between client/firm dialogue is a lack of specificity. Headlines in the press saying firms are complacent or overpriced, and the conversation stops there. “Disagreement is no bar to friendship, but insults don’t help,” Um said.
So how can law firms drill down to a more productive conversation? “What about asking clients what they need? What do you need to tell the board in six months? What’s the one thing you have to get done this year?” Um asked.
“Above all else, we need courage to keep going, empathy for everyone involved in this very difficult journey, and we need optimism. Things are better than what they used to be 5-10 years ago. When you return to your offices on Monday, remember, ‘Be excellent to each other,” Um said.
There were more great takeaways and lessons during concurrent sessions. Highlights from the day include:
- People who are a great fit for innovation teams will probably adapt well to different roles and different careers. Make sure you recognize these people, because odds are they won’t be unemployed for long. (Legal Design and Technology Solutions: What the Cool Kids are Doing)
- When it comes to fee agreement, keep things as simple as possible. If you get 95% of what makes up the fee agreement, you are in good shape. (What the Heck is a Fee Agreement?)
- Training is key. The practice of law requires command of minutiae that few generalists can master. However, innovating service industry requires borrowing proven ideas and adapting them to new contexts, something that specialists have a hard time with. (Fostering Service Delivery Innovation: Foundations of Effective Change Management in Law Firm)
- When it comes to issues with cash leakage: “It’s not about saying no to new business. More often it’s about saying yes with conditions.” —Jim Shoemaker, ALPP, Miles & Stockbridge, P.C. (Early Diagnosis: Leveraging Prescriptive Analytics and LPM as an Rx to Curb Revenue Leakage)
- “The question you should ask yourself is, ‘Do your clients actually understand your partners?’” –Keith Lipman, Prosperoware (Five Years in Building Technology for Client-Value: What Have We Learned?)
- Why value-based pricing? If we are not focusing on value, then our role is not pricing, it’s costing. If we understand the value of our offer, we can communicate this to clients and therefore increased perceived value. (Value Pricing: How Can We Do It Successfully, and When Does It Go 'Too Far'?)
- The future legal services spectrum has data projected to become a “double humped camel” —more work on the low end of the spectrum (efficiency and leveraging) and high end (innovation and distinction). This creates issues in staffing, focus, goals, etc. (False Profits: The Art and Science of Measuring and Motivating Performance)
- Are you using the LEADER approach? Listen, Estimate, Align, Deliver, End, Review (Deploying and Supporting a Global Matter Management System: How-Tos and Lessons Learned)
- Consider working with funders, who can step in to cover a percentage of the cost, so not everything is covered by the law firm. If the case is big enough, there’s likely an opportunity for it to be funded. (Demystifying Legal Finance: A Practical Guide to How Funding Works for Law Firms and Clients)
- Put the five Cs of delivering value into practice: collaboration, communications (voice of the client), clarity, a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. (Using Legal Project Management to Improve Client Relationships)
The education and lessons learned from today’s session is just the tip of the iceberg. Full session recordings will be available for purchase in the coming weeks in LMA’s Learning Store.